Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Looking Outside, Seeing Inside

For most people, their spirituality is anchored in one particular spiritual home.  A religion, a particular church/congregation, a specific dogma or spiritual philosophy.  In the majority of instances, this home is the one they were born into, passed along by their parents along with the other inherited hand-me-downs.  Later in life, some leave that familial spiritual home and either go into the blank canvass of no spiritual life, or convert to some other spiritual home.  Maybe to a new home just next door, or perhaps to a home far away from the original family homestead.  A conversion perhaps stimulated by a disappointment in one’s current place, a marriage and a new life partner, an intellectual outreach, or a set of enticing spiritual experiences.

In the end, it really does not matter where you end up calling home, as long as it enhances your connection with Spirit and the Universe, and brings out the better person of you.  Having spiritual companions who walk a similar path, however, helps to keep you moving forward when your energy may be lacking.  Having a structured set of spiritual ideas to explore, ideas from one of the Ancient Masters or a contemporary teacher, can help point out the direction to proceed at the many inevitable spiritual intersections we encounter.  Having an established ritual can give us a supportive form within which to express our spiritual self, often comfortably linked back to a tradition thousands of years old.

Companions, teachings, and ritual can provide a powerful tripartite framework for our spiritual pursuit.  On the condition that we truly enter into these by genuinely informed choice, not by an unquestioning default to our past-or-present cultural surroundings.  True spirituality is not fixed.  It is a constant quest for deeper understanding, a continual self-questioning of our truth, a changing view through our spiritual eyes.  And sometimes we have to go outside of our spiritual home and then look back in order to see more fully what is housed inside.

For the spiritually restless, it may be necessary to look back from several vantage points in order to see the full landscape.  To go to the absolutely unfamiliar in order to see where one has truly been.  From such an unfamiliar place, the old neighborhood can be seen afresh.  It is by laying our beliefs open to contrasting views that real Truth can be discovered.  It is by questioning our beliefs, and working through those questions to find answers, that we deepen our faith and understand it more fully, more genuinely.  Questioning our faith, like questioning our understanding of our Self, does not negate our faith.  It affirms it.  Even if our specifics may change as a result.

For me, my spiritual home is a camp tent that picks up and moves with me each day.  That journey has led to some very interesting, challenging, difficult and rewarding places.  A journey to greater themes and messages from God’s blessed Teachers.  Abraham teaches me to know only one God, but an infinite God that encompasses all things.  Jesus teaches me about the love of God, and how to reciprocate that love back to God and to share it with others.  Buddha teaches me how to know myself, and know the world around me, and how to live properly within that knowledge.  Lao-Tzu teaches me that there is a natural flow and rhythm in Life – God, Universe, Nature – and to live in harmony and sync with that flow.  Muhammad teaches me to surrender my will and my being completely to God, and to follow the teachings of the Ancients in fulfillment and commitment to God.  Moses teaches me to live in community, in a society informed by God.  And from all of this, God teaches me Life, Love, Fulfillment and the Understanding of all of Creation – an expansive Creation that is endless and continuous.

Build your spiritual home where you may choose.  But shape that home through the questioning prism of many different angles.  Our life is constantly moving.  Whether we stay on one path or take many different turns, our spirituality must always move alongside in accompaniment to that journey.  We ground our being in our spiritual feet, but they move upon constantly shifting ground.  If our spiritual GPS has always said “turn right,” then we should on occasion try turning Left.  We may be surprised that an unfamiliar route still brings us safely back home again.

©  2014   Randy Bell              www.OurSpiritualWay.blogspot.com

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Keep It Simple Seeker

In business, there is an oft-repeated admonition for the successful design and actualization of new products: “Keep it simple, stupid” (KISS).  It recognizes that success comes from clarity about what you are trying to ultimately accomplish, and then remaining fully true in fulfilling that core intention.  The arch-enemy is the near-inevitable human desire to overreach, over-ornament, and over-complicate that original intention.

KISS is also relevant to our spiritual pursuit.  Our Great Teachers – Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad – by their words and their lives, have told and shown us that real spirituality is to be found in simplicity and humility.  Yet religious systems always become anything but simple.  Almost inevitably, glorification and complexity rear their heads.  The great cathedrals of Europe, the splendid mosques of the Middle East and the Taj Mahal in India, the grand palaces and monasteries of Tibet, are intended to overwhelm the puny individual by their physical and visual display of Power – ostensibly the power of Spirit, but more often, the power of the church.

Inside these great halls are found the exquisite artifacts – the iconic religious symbols that reference the personas, the history, and the tenets of the religion.  All layered with great beauty intended to enhance the value and meaning of the object, as if the inherent meaning is not enough to stand on its own.  (Jesus’ simple wooden cup at the Last Supper subsequently became a gold and bejeweled chalice used for religious ritual.)

We do the same with our spiritual teachings and dogma.  We take the earliest, simple teachings and mash them into highly complex discussions of theology, interpretation, and etymologies of words derived across translated languages.  Yet it is in those earliest beginning teachings that the real messages can be found, not in the complex renderings of “interpretations and explanations” that we have layered on ever since.  God is an experience of the individual spirit, not a logic lesson for the human mind.

The tendency to overreach and to glorify is understandable, especially as one seeks to express such an inexpressible spiritual feeling living in one’s soul.  The success yearnings of the clergyperson, combined with the creative capacity of a fine artist, can be a powerful temptation.  But as beautiful, expressive and inspirational as these temples and artifacts can be to our senses, we must ask ourselves: is this what our Teachers taught us?  Is this grandness for the benefit of God, and for the spiritual encouragement of the congregant?  Or are they really testaments to Man, the grandeur of the Church itself, the power of the person in the pulpit?  How much energy has been expended for the brick rather than the Spirit?

We are certainly free to admire the output – architecture, art, and sophisticated theological argument – that comes from our human spiritual creativity.  We can appreciate the creative abilities and realization of potential exemplified in these outputs, and use them to encourage our own expression.  But these are human creations.  When we begin to think that our spirituality is dependent upon, or measured by, those human factors, or see them in place of appreciation for God’s simple treasures living all around us, we have lost sight of our true responsibility and connection to God.  When we build our faith on foundations of cash, and try to define our spirituality by the size of the congregation and the complex arguments of our theology, it is at the expense of the richness of our spirit.  We may impress ourselves and each other with our grand physical symbols.  But God will not be so impressed.  Spiritual honesty in a neighbor’s candlelit living room can be far more true than misdirected spiritual expression from the pulpit.

©  2014   Randy Bell                          www.OurSpiritualWay.blogspot.com